Joe Webb and the Minnesota Vikings – in defense of every beagle, labrador and collie of this nation – thoroughly dominated the Philadelphia Eagles last night and handed the Chicago Bears a first round bye. Shortly thereafter a collective groan was heard in and around the New York metropolitan area. Giants fans, who never stopped recounting their fourth-quarter meltdown during the Christmas holiday, watched their club’s playoff hopes dwindle even further as the Bears were stripped of all motivation from Sunday at Lambeau Field. Unless, of course, you believe the Bears organization is concerned with removing the Packers from the tournament.
And they shouldn’t be. Not now. I’ve said all along that if the Bears could improve their seeding heading into the final week of the season, they should deliver an inspired effort in Green Bay and knock the cheese out of January/February football. But barring an Atlanta collapse against Carolina and a Bucs win over the Saints in the early games, the Bears are firmly entrenched as the deuce. That leaves three possible outcomes at Lambeau. (1) The Bears win and feel a bit better about themselves. (2) The Bears lose and feel a bit worse about themselves. (3) Someone important gets injured. To incorrectly paraphrase a Meatloaf tune, “Two out of three are pretty damn shitty.”
I don’t think the Bears should make anybody important inactive (with the exception of Pisa Tinoisamoa, who will now certainly be healthy for the Divisional Round) but they should have Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs off the field by halftime. Leave the offensive line to face Clay Matthews and the attacking defensive front. Leave the other receivers to get some reps with Caleb Hanie, a player who might be called upon in a critical moment. Leave the secondary to face one of the best passing attacks in the sport. Get Chester Taylor, Nick Roach, Brian Iwuh and Corey Wootton maximum reps. I don’t look at sitting the stars as a negative thing. I see it as essential player development awarded to the teams who’ve earned the right to do it in-season, against the highest quality of competition. And based on the way the Bears emerged from their mid-season bye, I’m not concerned about them losing any type of momentum.
I will also add this: the New York Giants scare me a lot more than the Green Bay Packers. I don’t think the Giants are better than the Pack but I believe the Bears can line up with the Packers and beat them without tricks. I’ve seen it happen already this year. The Giants front four on defense against the Bears offensive line is a disaster waiting to happen and eliminating them from the tournament would eliminate perhaps the Bears biggest conference matchup problem.
Think of a postseason game without Cutler. Without Hester. Without Peppers, Urlacher or Briggs. Now ask yourself whether knocking the Packers out of the playoffs Sunday would be worth that risk.